David's Blog

On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest.  Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!

“A lot of times, pitchers coming out of the college ranks are trying to trick  hitters.”


Q&A: Reid Nichols, Milwaukee Brewers Director of Player Development

Reid Nichols is in charge of a Brewers system heavy on youth. The majority of Milwaukee’s top-rated prospects aren’t yet old enough to drink. Their ceilings are high, but they face long climbs to Miller Park.

Nichols has been the organization’s Director of Player Development – his official title includes Special Assistant to the GM – since 2002. His 13 years have featured numerous success stories, with the likes of Ryan Braun, Khris Davis, Yovani Gallardo and Jonathan Lucroy progressing through the minor-league ranks. As Brewers’ fans are well aware, other highly-regarded prospects have failed to meet expectations.

A big-league outfielder from 1980-1987, Nichols was the farm director – and for one year the first base coach – for the Texas Rangers before coming to Milwaukee.


Nichols on interdepartmental cohesion: “From my end it’s kind of been the same with the player development side. Our basic philosophy is to help make that bridge from the minor leagues to the major leagues as smooth as possible. Baseball is baseball. Nobody’s trying to recreate the game.

“I’m in the draft room with the projections of both of our rookie teams. I discuss that with our scouting director and the cross checkers, so they know who’s playing where. The first five to eight rounds, they pick the best player available. I stay out of that – they spend months working on their draft board – but I do tell them what we have and who is going to play.

“If we have a good shortstop, I’m going to say, ‘If you guys draft a shortstop, know we have this guy and he’s going to play most of the time here – unless you get a stud, then we’ve got to do something about it.’ Maybe there’s a position change for a year or two. We did that with Scooter Gennett. He came in as a shortstop and we had to flip him around back and forth between short and second.

“We have manual with every one of our areas – hitting, catching, running, infield, outfield, pitching – and our (scouting department) has it and knows what we’re teaching. The managers get the (scouting) reports that tell us all about the players coming in. We try to let the players – in their first year – go as far as they can go, doing what they’ve been doing. They’ve obviously done something to get drafted and we don’t want to interfere with that unless we need to. When they get to instructional league – or if they’re struggling during the season and come to us asking for help – we’ll try to make a change. We work more on the mental side when we first get them.”

On development plans: “We kind of divide our system in half (at) Double-A and focus our teaching that way. Our rovers travel mostly to the lower levels. At Double-A and Triple-A, there is more focus on winning and a little less on player development.

“There is still development in Double-A and we have a really good manager there in Carlos Subero. He’s a great teacher in all aspects of the game. Rick Sweet does a great job of handling out Triple-A team. So, there’s not a lot of need for us to spend a lot of time in either place. Our guys are really focused on the lower levels and getting that foundation.

“Our players all have a game plan, on paper, that we put in their hands. They know what they’re working on with every person who touches them. When they come into spring training, they get it and know what they’re working on in the spring. When the season opens, they get an updated version and know what they’re working on as they get into the season. If there are times things need to change throughout the season, that’s done. Then, at the end of the season, in instructional league, they get an update on the areas they’ve improved on and where they need to continue working.

“The communication is really good as far as what everybody has to do. A guy won’t go from our high-A team to our Double-A and suddenly find they’re doing something else with him. They know exactly where he’s coming from and what he needs to work on. We’ve had changes in personnel, and some are better at it than others, but the staff we have now is very good at communicating with our players.”

On 20-year-old outfielder Tyrone Taylor: “The only thing I’ve really talked to him about is his breaks in the outfield. They could have been better. I worked with him a little on starting to move a bit sooner – not waiting – and on getting a better line to the plate so he can see the ball go through the hitting zone. We had him work on his breaks during batting practice. He’s a good outfielder, and he will be a very good outfielder when he starts getting those breaks down.

“We didn’t have a roving outfield guy last year – outfield and base running — and I think it kind of worked out for the best. because all of our instructors took it on themselves to help. I think we got better in both areas because of it. Without having an instructor in that area, I was a little more open about saying something to (Taylor), but mostly if I saw something I would go to (minor league hitting coordinator and former outfielder) Jeremy Reed and ask, ‘what do you think?’ and let him handle it. I try to be hands-off, so I’d trust his judgment.

“I probably saw Tyrone a total of 30 days through the season. I try to make four or five trips to our lower clubs. I only make a couple of trips to Double-A and Triple-A. My focus is on the lower levels and making sure we get the foundation laid correctly.

“Tyrone is a Johnny-Damon type, with maybe not quite the speed – maybe a half a step slower – but he’s got a good arm. He’s got really good tools.”

On 20-year-old shortstop Orlando Arcia: “We’re really deep in shortstops and, in my view, he’s one of the best. He played in Brevard last year. The kid’s got eyes in the back of his head. He’s very aware of everything that’s happening on the field.

“He’s a quiet leader, but there are times when he steps up. I think he’s got it in him to lead a team. He’s going about it the right way now. He just loves the game and that’s kind of infectious. When he’s on the field, he brings everybody up a little bit.

“He’s an average-to-above runner, He an above-average to well-above-average fielder. He has an average arm. His instincts for the game… you know, I’d probably compare him a little bit to a young J.J. Hardy.”

On 19-year-old 2014 CBA pick Jake Gatewood: “He came in a little timid, but started opening up toward the end of the season. He’s a good shortstop and while he only hit .206 this year, he’s going to be a good hitter. He’s going to be a good player, he’s just young. When he came in, I thought he was hurt. We were hearing 60-65 arm, and he was showing a 45 arm. It took him awhile to get his feet on the ground and get comfortable. I don’t know exactly what it was – we couldn’t figure it out – but then he really came on toward the end. He became what the reports said he was.”

On pitching philosophy: “Early in their careers, we ask guys to throw strikes down. We don’t want them trying to throw to the corners. We want them to command their fastballs down in the zone and mostly, with very few exceptions, we don’t let them throw two-seamers. We want them to throw four-seamers with command. That makes them work on their command instead of trying to trick the hitter.

“Early on, their secondary should be their changeup. Then, if they’re a guy that can spin the ball – it’s a gift they have – we won’t take it away from them. But changeups are very important.

“We work more on the mental side and getting their line to the plate better, taking some stress off their shoulders – minor changes to help them stay healthy and start thinking correctly. A lot of times, pitchers coming out of the college ranks are trying to trick hitters. Our philosophy is more to go after them and throw strikes. We like to get early outs on the ground.”

On 18-year-old 2014 first-round pick Kodi Medeiros: “He’s an interesting guy. The catchers have a hard time catching him, because his ball moves so much. He’s got a little bit of a funky delivery where he lays it out in kind of a low three-quarter (arm slot). But he’s gonna take some time. He’s going to have to command the ball. You can’t trick the hitters like… I guess I keep going back to that. We want the guys to command the ball, because that’s the only way they’re going to be successful in the big leagues. There are very few guys who can just rear back and throw it and get away with it.

“I can’t tell you for certain, but I’m pretty sure he was throwing a two seamer (when he was drafted). He’s throwing four-seamers, because that’s pretty much our policy. But he’ll get (the two-seamer) back. He’ll have it whenever, and even though we tell them not to throw it, they still mess with it. We know he’s throwing it, but our focus is commanding a four-seam fastball, throwing strikes down in the zone.”

On defensive shifts: “We pretty much shift at all levels, but the only time we really do it is when we have data that shows a hitter is a dead pull hitter. We don’t shift just to shift. We want our shortstops to learn how to play behind second base because they’re going to have to do that as they go through the system.

“There are times we’ll take infield and put the shift on. We practice the shift during batting practice and when they take their ground balls. Our roving infield instructor, as he travels around, makes sure they get their standard work on routine plays – that’s our focus – and we’ll work on the shift as well.”

On hitting against the shift: “Hitting is hard enough when you’re just trying to do the things you should be doing. When you try to change that because they’re pulling a shift on you, you’re going to end up having a problem. You don’t want to come out of your everyday approach. Our approach, hitting-wise, is middle the other way – work up the middle and then shrink the zone to where you’re looking for the ball. Don’t swing early in the count unless it’s the pitch you’re absolutely looking for. You know, a fastball in your sweet spot. If it’s not there, you’re not swinging. We like our guys to work the count. Jeremy Reed has done a great job here. He’s really had an impact on the players, especially on their mental approach.”



“I’m for the elimination of MLB being allowed to tell teams how to spend their money in the acquisition of amateurs”




As other esteemed bloggers have said in this week’s “Blogger Roundtable”, there isn’t really a ‘quick fix’ to some of the current dynamics of international player acquisition. That said, I do think eliminating financial restrictions—as opposed to making them more definite—would alleviate some of the tension surrounding teams blatantly exceeding international allotments. Additionally—as others, too, have said in this roundtable—it is imperative that different markets be treated individually. The Dominican, Venezuela, and other Central and South American countries—those that usually contribute talent between 16-18 years old—could be more easily exposed to a ‘draft’ type system. On the other hand, markets like Cuba and Japan would need to be treated differently; the top MLB acquisitions from these markets are oftentimes fully developed—if not at least almost there—and already have registered professional baseball experience before signing with an American club.

I’m for the elimination of MLB being allowed to tell teams how to spend their money in the acquisition of amateurs. This goes for the Rule IV June Draft, too. There is no salary cap in MLB—aside from the luxury tax, the league levies no constraints on how much a team can spend on their big league product—so why does capping the only avenue small-market teams can spend competitively with the big boys make any sense? Without going on a total tangent, the in-principle concept of the league regulating bonus pool size based solely on MLB win total creates some real issues. And bear in mind, too, that MLB win total impacts the size of a team’s international bonus pool as well, not just the amount teams can spend on the June Draft.

Not factoring in a team’s payroll and market size when assigning bonus pools can create situations where small market teams are punished for being successful at the MLB level. The ‘cost’ of that success is a financial disadvantage within the one avenue of player acquisition small-revenue clubs can actually compete with larger market teams: the signing and subsequent procurement of amateur players on the domestic and international fronts. On the flipside, teams with the financial capability to quickly improve their rosters through free agency—yet less successful in terms of MLB win total—can be double-rewarded under the current structure, able to outspend smaller markets in the signing of amateurs and in the free agent market.

Using a very tangible example from this offseason, the Red Sox entered the season with a payroll of over 162 million, yet finished last in the AL East with 71 wins. The A’s—let’s just put their (tragic, to me) collapse aside—entered 2014 with a payroll slightly over 83 million, about 50% of Boston’s MLB spending, but won 88 games. This means that the Red Sox will pick 7th in the 2015 Draft, while Oakland will have the 24th selection in the first round. Under current CBA rules, excluding the impact of compensatory picks, the higher a team picks in the first round, the more sizeable their bonus pool allotment. This holds true both in the June Draft and international spending pools.

While the spending allotments for the 2015 Rule IV Draft and 2015-2016 International bonus pools have yet to be released, going off the totals from this past year’s draft and international bonus pools, the 71-win, big-money Red Sox’s advantage in amateur spending over the 88-win, small-market A’s would be as follows:


2014 Win Total

Pick #

 2014 Bonus Pool Total for Pick #

 2014 Pool Total for INTL Slot #
















To regurgitate the above table in prose, the Red Sox—a team who entered the 2014 season with about 200% the MLB payroll of Oakland while finishing 17 games worse—are allowed to spend roughly 30% more in the draft, and 40% more internationally. The 7th pick in the 2014 Draft (Phillies)—what Boston will be working with in 2015—came with a 6,896,700 bonus pool, and an additional 3,221,800 to spend internationally. Oakland’s 2015 24th pick/slot—which Pittsburgh had in 2014—came with a 4,834,100 Rule IV Draft bonus pool (excluding Competitive Bonus compensatory picks), and a paltry 1,963,800 limit to international spending.

This really, really troubles me. The point of giving ‘worse’ or ‘more disadvantaged’ teams an upper hand in the procurement of amateur talent is so the competitive betterment of MLB’s bottommost teams is done in an equitable manner. With spending restrictions in place—correlated solely with MLB win total, and not impacted by payroll or market size—a situation has been created that is completely UN-equitable from a monetary standpoint: big-money teams like Boston are rewarded for paltry results at the MLB level by being given a distinct financial advantage in every avenue of player acquisition. As I’m writing this, top-tier free agents like Sandoval and Lester—open market players the A’s could never entertain—are being linked to Boston. The Red Sox can rapidly better their MLB team by utilizing financial resources every offseason for free agents, a market the proverbial A’s of the world can’t compete in. Now, with amateur bonus spending restrictions in place, the underachieving big-money clubs can also outspend the ‘little guy’ at the grassroots level, too.

The fear of eliminating spending restrictions altogether for amateurs is that it would, like the free agent market, become just another platform for larger market teams to flex financial muscle. While that makes logical sense, looking back at the last few years—and before 2012 for the Rule IV draft, the new CBA’s rules taking hold from 2012-present—it hasn’t been the case. While larger market teams have, at times, been among the top spenders for international and Rule IV amateur talent, there have been many instances where big spending on amateurs by small-market clubs demonstrated those low-revenue teams understanding that free-market spending on amateurs was their only chance at acquiring top talent over MLB’s wealthiest franchises.




Mariners, Yankees, Astros, Pirates, Athletics


Rangers, Blue Jays, Royals, Mariners, Cubs


Rangers, Cubs, Dodgers, Indians, Red Sox


Between 2010 and 2013, teams like the Astros, Pirates, Athletics, Blue Jays, Royals, and Indians—teams not always known for deep pockets—were among the top players for international signees.




Nationals, Pirates, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Indians


Nationals, Pirates, Royals, Mariners, Cubs


The same trended continued in 2010 and 2011, the final two years of unrestricted Rule IV Draft spending. While the Red Sox (2010) and Cubs (2011)—teams with significant payroll capacities—were among the top five in each of the two years, so too were teams like the Pirates, Blue Jays, Indians, Royals, and Mariners.

When spending on the domestic and international market is unregulated, teams with greater financial means haven’t dominated either platform just because they have the capability to do so. The variance of the respective market sizes of the top spenders on international and domestic talent between 2010-2013 represent small-revenue clubs placing emphasis on aggressive amateur spending as a byway to competitive balance. For instance, the Pirates seemed to recognize this; sensing restrictive spending might soon be implemented on the Rule IV draft—and knowing that an organization in their market has to make up the differences in financial capability by spending aggressively for amateurs—Pittsburgh spent roughly 52 million on Draft bonuses between 2007-2011, tops in the league.

Essentially, large market teams have the luxury of not needing to rely on aggressive amateur procurement and player development to attain impact players at the MLB level. If they sign/draft and develop ‘wrong’ on a big-money player, their affluence affords them the luxury of simply signing an established impact player on the free agent market. A big money club can continually add to its MLB roster by buying proven assets in free agency. Teams without such financial means—the Pirates, the A’s, the Rays, etc.—HAVE TO dump the resources they do have into acquiring amateur talent, and unlike the proverbial Yankees and Red Sox of the world, absolutely live and die by their ability to turn top amateur prospects into effective MLB contributors by way of efficient player development. These smaller market teams can’t afford the luxury to avoid the inherent risk that comes along with unproven amateur talent: highly paid draft picks and international signees are essentially being paid for what their talents indicate they could do, unlike more expensive free agents, who are getting their larger contracts for what they have already have done at the highest level.

So what can be done? How can this be remedied—and, to FINALLY answer the ACTUAL roundtable question—could the implementation of an ‘international draft’ make an impact?

Like I said earlier, no one seems to have a ‘cure-all’ solution, and I certainly lack the cultural insight and financial accreditation to assert that I do, either. That said, I think that when it comes to the international market, implementing a system like that of the Rule IV Draft before the new CBA could make a slight difference. By this, I mean that I would suggest an ‘international draft order’ based on MLB win/loss record, but take away bonus pools and penalties for the signing of 16-18 year old Latin American prospects. This way, disadvantaged teams—in this case, the worst teams in MLB in terms of winning percentage—got the ‘first crack’ at the international amateurs of their choosing, but there was nothing restricting a winning, small-market team like the 2014 A’s—possessing the 24th pick in the hypothetical ‘International draft’—from spending more than franchises at the top of the ‘International draft’s’ order who could have a financial leg up on the open market, like how a club such as Boston might very well sign a Sandoval-esque free agent this offseason while simultaneously holding the Rule IV and international bonus pools associated with the 7th overall pick.

There is usually so much disagreement about the long-term value of heavily investing in 16 year old players anyway—and, as such, there is generally so little consensus about who the best 16 year old in any international class even is—I don’t think it is a given bigger market teams would simply DOMINATE the spending if international fiscal restrictions were pulled.

Counterintuitively, under the new rules, I think the taxation on the overage of international spending pools has allowed big market teams to dominate more than how they used to in the international market without bonus regulations. A team like the Pirates can’t exceed their international bonus pool by a significant amount, because they lack the financial capacity to easily pay the taxes on the overage. The Yankees, though, easily can afford to pay any financial penalty, so the subsequent taxation for blowing their bonus pool out of the water becomes a non-factor. We’ve seen a few larger-market teams exercise this loophole the last few years.

The aforementioned variability on the long-term merits of investing in the international market makes the secondary punitive measure for overspending internationally—losing the ability to sign players above a certain bonus in following year(s)—a relatively small hindrance for big money teams. In other words: because the international market is so fickle anyway, a case can be made for it making more sense to effectively make a push for ALL the top talents in ONE year—and sign none the next—than sign just ONE big-bonus player from Latin America EVERY year. Even more so than the Rule IV draft, the international draft is a crapshoot—and the saying goes “if you throw enough crap at the wall, some crap has got to stick.” For instance, signing 10 of the top international prospects in one year—and not being able to sign any for the next two years on top of paying a tax on the bonus pool overage—still nets a big-market team 10 top international prospects, as opposed to just three if they signed one top prospect in each international spending period and stayed within their bonus pool every year.

What of Japanese and Cuban players? I think the new posting system is working fine for Japanese imports, and I think it could even be extended to Cuban players, too. When it comes to Cubans, this nonsense rule about X years of professional service time alleviating certain players from being included into international bonus pools—but Cubans under a certain age COUNTING towards a team’s international pool—is pretty garbage. Cubans should just have one universal rule girder the way that they’re signed by MLB teams, regardless of player age of years and professional baseball experience.

Hedging my two cents on how to approach the Cuban government and Serie Nacional—Cuba’s professional baseball league—is the most audacious hypothetical I’ve presented in this piece, but in my lowly world view, perhaps stimulating Cuba’s economy by allowing Serie Nacional teams to receive some of the posting money—as NPB teams do by posting their top players—would make the Cuban government more open to allowing their top baseball players to leave for the United States without putting those individuals at as much risk as it currently takes to leave the island.

I think many of the unintended loopholes to the new CBA’s impact on the international market could be alleviated by a middle-ground compromise: keep a ‘draft order’ for the procurement of Latin American teenagers, but don’t regulate how much any team can spend internationally based on their position within the draft order.

Regulating how much teams spend on international players was supposed to create more competitive balance, but larger market teams’ indifference to the penalties for exceeding their bonus pools have made the integrity of the new spending rules obsolete. The only way to change this trend is to put the power of how much to spend internationally back in the hands of teams themselves, once again allowing small-market franchises to spend competitively for international talent regardless of their MLB win total.



‘Baseball America write-up said his tools were "uninspiring." ‘



Eno Sarris@fangraphs

Kole Calhoun tore his way through the minor leagues. He hit the ground running in his 2013 debut. Why was there any surprise when he put up a top-10 season for an American League outfielder this year?

There are reasons, or maybe we could say excuses, for Calhoun's dismissal as a prospect. He never made a top 100 Baseball America list, he never made that organization's top 10 prospects on the Angels, and there wasn't much buzz about him coming up. He's not tall -- at 5-10 -- and his Baseball America write-up said his tools were "uninspiring." 

And once he started putting up minor-league stats, there were reasons to dismiss those as well. Calhoun signed as 22-year-old out of college. He was a year older than the average player in rookie ball, so maybe that helped with the .292/.411/.505 slash line at Orem. He was older than average in A-ball, so maybe we shouldn't gaze too longingly at that .324/.410/.547 line in Inland Empire. And Triple-A? That was Salt Lake in the Pacific Coast League. Obviously his .298/.369/.507 there was inflated.

So there were reasons, or maybe excuses. But after Calhoun debuted in 2013 with offense that was 27% better than league average, he faced a new struggle last season. "Obviously they're going to have a lot more information on me now then they've had in the past," the player admitted in late 2014. "It's my job to understand what they are trying to do and know what my weaknesses are and not really give them too much of a chance to expose them."

It was nice that you were as good as your numbers promised, kid, but can you keep it up when they've got a book on you?

The biggest adjustment seems to be the one that comes after the debut. As Calhoun says: "They're always going to try hit the holes in your swing, or find somewhere where they think they can get you and you have to do a good job of laying off those and getting your pitch to hit." Can we find the holes that he showed in 2013 and see how pitchers used that information in 2014?

Um. No? Check out this heat map for his 2013 work, courtesy of Baseballheatmaps.com. No hole, just a nice warm glow middle-in.


That's what good plate discipline will do for you. That isn't to say that nothing was learned. By FanGraphs' pitch type values, Calhoun didn't do well against breaking balls in 2013. This year, the percentage of curveballs he saw doubled from 6% to 12.4%. His percentage of fastballs seen went down accordingly.

Even if Calhoun didn't think that the lack of fastballs was a trend that would stick, he did admit that the pitching mix had changed a bit the second time through the league. "Had some success early, and now they're mixing it up on me," he said.

When asked about how the pitchers had changed their location on him, Calhoun talked about two spots in particular. "There have been times where it's been difficult for me to get to the inside pitch and then times when it's been difficult to hit the ball away," the outfielder said.

But when you look at the swing and pitch heat maps, it looks like the most important zones for him this past season were away over the plate and then high in the zone. Especially if you divide the season into two halves, considering his early work (.876 OPS before the All-Star break) was much better than his late-season work (.696 OPS after the break). In the early part of the season, it looked like pitchers just stuck with the low-and-away mantra:


Calhoun didn't really bite, though:

So the pitchers look like they decided to run it up the ladder a bit. Look at his pitch percentage high in the zone late in the season:

This adjustment was a little tougher for Calhoun to make. See his swing rate on pitches up in the zone late in the season:

The good news is that, despite a late-season swoon (and perhaps the emergence of a small hole up in the zone), Calhoun still has a nice swing map. The plate discipline has traveled with him to the major leagues.

As has his line-drive, up-the-middle stroke. Though he has some pull power, his hits don't cluster, they scatter all over the field. And since he's made it to the bigs, Calhoun has been top-20 in the American League in line drive rate. Along with that discipline, this package of skills is what prompted Mike Scioscia to tell David Laurila that Calhoun was "one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball."

But the player himself doesn't think his approach is too remarkable. "Everybody tries to practice a line-drive swing, everybody says home runs happen." Calhoun said of his success so far. "I just want to beat the guy on the mound, however it happens."



“He’s the best.”


Brian Sabean a giant reason for his team’s success

In this age of analytical baseball, how do the old-school Giants do it?

Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ new president of baseball operations, will make anywhere from $7 million-$10 million (depending on incentives) per year, three times more than Giants GM Brian Sabean, who has won three World Series.

In 17 years in San Francisco, Sabean, who loves wearing black and remaining low-key, has done it his way, which is better than anyone else.

When you mention Sabean, the response usually is, “He’s the best.”

Yet teams don’t adopt the Giants’ model because it’s not slanted enough toward analytics. Sabean has a staff of analysts, too, but they are not in front of the room, they’re in the back.

Orioles GM Dan Duquette, who was recently named Executive of the Year, might be the closest of that ilk.

Sabean, who grew up in Concord, N.H., and loved the Bruins, Red Sox, and Celtics, actually prefers conversation over e-mails and texts. He learned team-building by studying Harry Sinden and Red Auerbach.

While the rest of baseball staffs tend to be ages 30-40, Sabean’s is more 50-60, people who have seen and evaluated a lot of baseball, as opposed to the younger, Ivy League generation, who are terrific at team-building through analytical models.

Sabean is loyal, employing people such as Framingham’s Bobby Evans, assistant GM; Dick Tidrow, pitching guru; and scouts Paul TurcoEd CreechLee ElderFred StanleyMatt Nerland, and Doug Mapson, who have been around him for a long time.

“I think the best thing I do is delegate,” Sabean said. “I trust the people I have working with me to do their job and I put my trust in them.”

He employs the best manager in baseball in future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy; employs a bench coach (Ron Wotus of Colchester, Conn.) who has been with the Giants since 1999.

Sabean was a factor in building the Yankees’ latest dynasty, as well. He was scouting director when Bernie WilliamsJorge PosadaDerek JeterMariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte came through the system.

But the Giants are looked at in the industry as an aberration. Yes, they’re good at what they do with three championships in five years, but they are not the mainstream anymore.

“A lot of it is just common sense,” Sabean said. “We use the analytics, as well. But it doesn’t have to be a complicated formula. We have people in our organization who understand what we need and they make their recommendations. We’re human beings so we’re going to be wrong sometime. That’s just the way it is, but we believe in the people in our organization and trust their judgment.”



“changing speeds and location are more important than velocity”

Dwight Gooden was a dominant pitcher at a young age. As a 19-year-old rookie in 1984, he struck out 11.4 batters per nine innings while winning 17 games for the New York Mets. A year later, he went 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA.

Gooden’s career is well-documented, from his brilliance on the mound to his battles with substance abuse and the law. Less known are his views on pitching, which I got a snapshot view of in a brief conversation last night.

The first question I asked the 50-year-old Gooden was about his early career pitchability: Did he excel on pure, raw stuff, or did he already have a good feel for how to attack hitters?

“My dad taught me about pitching at a very young age,” answered Gooden. “He taught me about reading bat speed and how to go after weaknesses. He taught me how to set up hitters. I was very fortunate that my dad was a huge baseball fan who knew about pitching. When I was young – my years from 9 to 15 – he’d take me out to do drills. He made me a student of the game.”

His curveball – taught to him by his father — was among the best of his era. He described the grip as, “basically holding it like my fastball, but with my fingers together and holding it a little tighter.” He threw the pitch until undergoing labrum surgery in 1992, at which point he was “mentally afraid to snap it off” and learned a slider.

Gooden didn’t throw a changeup – “I could just never get a feel for one” – nor did he throw a two-seam fastball, as he couldn’t get any movement on it.

‘I basically had two pitches,” Gooden told me. “I had a fastball and a curveball. But what I did was turn that into four pitches by changing speeds on my fastball and changing speeds on my curveball.

“In my prime, I was between 95-98, but being a power pitcher wasn’t really an ego thing for me. I liked throwing high fastballs to get strikeouts, but changing speeds and location are more important than velocity. Today, they make too much out of kids throwing 98-99.”